Despite all the hype, the Apple Watch may not be the product whose time has come. When one considers the meaning of “watch” according to the Cambridge dictionary as “a small clock usually worn on a strap around the wrist or sometimes carried in a pocket,” one has to ask: “just what were they thinking?”
Well, if you are under 40, you haven’t worn a watch in years and may have never worn one for that matter. You get the time (and date) from the many devices connected to your person.
If you are over 40, you wear a watch, to know the time and the date, and quite possibly use it as a fashion statement—all product benefits for this market segment.
Marketing, like the devil, is in the details, and it is these perceptional differences among groups that from time to time result in product failure even for sophisticated folks like Apple. Here's why the Apple Watch may have a tough time on its journey to customer acceptance.
Marketers over the years have used the "features and benefits" model to sell their products. This has not changed and, to be effective, one most know one’s customers. Features are the product specifications, while benefits are what the product does for the customer.
A good example is the watch that has a perpetual time feature. Its benefit to the wearer is that he or she never has to wind the watch to have it operate on-time.
To be fair, Apple has done an outstanding job focusing on the features—the apps and specifications. However, it could have done more on the benefits side by guaranteeing to its core demographic (younger Apple customers) that this is a new device, not a watch. For this group, “watches” represent the “old school” and are associated with telling time—a small timepiece, something their parents and grandparents use, and not part of their product “must-have” portfolio.
By eliminating the name “watch” and changing it to perhaps “Smartband,” Apple may have been able to change the dynamic—making it the “IT” device rather than the IT “watch,” a major hurdle in the product adoption cycle.
This name change (Smartband) would have started with an innovation, not merely a new product that is exciting, different, and something that would be sought after eventually by the older market.
In marketing, small things count. So, referring to Apple’s device as a "watch" only takes away from this innovative product and limits its success to its key demographic.
Apple’s appeal to both current and non-current watch users may be a strategic mistake. What is important to point out is that the new device being rolled out is not a new product at all, but an innovation. This means that the “Apple Watch” is an application of a better solution, which meet new requirements, in-articulated needs, or existing market needs. So why call it a watch?
The marketer in me sees a problem. But it’s the customers that count and how they perceive this position will determine the success of the product (innovation).
Radio, television, personal computer, Internet, Smartphones, and now the Apple Watch (Smart Band) are examples of innovations. The history of marketing warns us that all innovations have needed time for acceptance.
This process would have been easier if Apple had started with its customers first and accepted a very important marketing truth. Marketing is not about you and your company; it is rather all about your customers.
Getting customers to buy a high tech device with a name associated with a unidimensional benefit—telling time—is something that Apple could have done differently and better.
And, yes, as I like to say, things are easier when you have marketing in mind.